Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Hundred and One (1-16)

I love Enger’s descriptions of The Hundred and One. If you’ve ever seen the Broadway musical “Annie Get Your Gun” or the more recent movie “Hildalgo” then you know what the old west shows were reported to be like. Apparently The Hundred and One was just such a show; sharp shooters, monkeys and elephants, saloon brawls and indian attacks at 6 pm nightly. What a place! No wonder Hood was determined to get there.

Speaking of Hood….why is he using an alias? And how old is he? Do we know? Did I miss that line? At first I thought he was 13 or so, but I don’t think they would’ve taken someone that young with them. Maybe he’s 16. I don’t know. He’s obviously old enough to be a skilled mechanic and old enough to fall in love. But he’s immature in many ways too. His desire for praise, his sullenness and his amazing ability to lie without compunction or premeditation show his youth.

I can imagine how exciting that underwater ride in front of his girl and all of the vaqueros must have been for Hood. What teenage boy wouldn’t want to pull off the most dramatic feat in Hundred and One history? How quickly he went from hero to goat after that, though. Why did he run after punching Ern Swilling? No one would have accused him of murder had he stayed. They all saw the action and knew that the fall, not the punch, broke Ern’s neck. Maybe he ran because he was already running from something else?

Poor Ern. I love these lines about the ill-fated German actor.

“…nature had been ridiculously kind to Ern Swilling—besides his marquee appearance he was strong as a bear with the easy world-beater genetics we were
all to encounter in coming years.”

And then after the accident.

“…he got his first grip on the transformed world; on the fact that he was no longer a sought quantity or screen actor but a handsome young paralytic with no prospects whatever for fame or wealth or for that matter much of a lifespan.”

Medically speaking, I don’t quite understand the whole bit about helping someone breathe by tying a tube around their neck, but nevertheless I think we were all a little relieved when that tube slipped and Ern was released from a life of institutionalized agony.

The Hundred and One seems to have misfortune clinging to it. After Hood’s unfortunate accident and Ern’s untimely demise the entire place is flooded. Buildings are destroyed and livestock killed. Everyone is marooned inside the damp boarding house….including Charles Siringo.

I can’t say that I was surprised the he showed up, but I was shocked that he was Jip, Darlys’ old beau from the Hole in the Wall. How does Glendon keep running in to these people? Texas is a big place, but Glendon runs in to old friends every other day. Apparently he had (and maybe still has) a soft spot for Darlys and not much love for Jip. I don’t know if Siringo really doesn’t remember Darlys or if he does not want to reveal that he and Jip are one in the same. So is he really an outlaw that became a Pinkerton agent or a Pinkerton agent that was undercover as an outlaw named Jip? I don’t know but I suspect that he is 80% outlaw and 20% law man.

As a matter of fact, he isn’t a law man at all anymore. He has no authority whatsoever to arrest Glendon, but I doubt that makes Glendon any safer. Siringo probably wouldn’t hesitate to shoot him on sight, or at least detain him and turn him over to the local authorities in hopes of a large reward…or some major publicity. Maybe Glendon already knows this. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does.

I wasn’t sad that Darlys shot Siringo and I love how the narrator (Monte) just assumes that we know Darlys was the shooter. I fervently hoped that he was dead, but I knew he wouldn’t be. I never suspected that Monte would become Siringo’s personal nurse though. In some ways I’m shocked that Monte could sit there day after day and care for the old man, but on the other hand I know that Monte has a big heart and an even bigger sense of duty and honor…almost to a fault.

That sense of duty leads him to even offer Siringo a ride to the train station. I can’t help but think that that is a big mistake. We’ll see.

Thoughts on “The Fiery Siringo” coming tomorrow.


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